Bangor University was established in 1884 and currently has over 2200 staff and 14,000 students.
The HE sector has experienced considerable change in recent years due to (amongst many other factors) new funding structures which are making the HE markets much more competitive and the increase in student fees which has resulted in a need to consistently improve services to students to deliver the ‘Student Experience’ agenda.
As in common with many institutions in the HE sector, staff wellbeing has increasingly become a priority at Bangor as the constant change and pressure to deliver excellent services impacts on its staff.
A staff survey in 2012 revealed that 28% of staff felt stressed at work. This a similar response rate to other institutions in the UK and many staff noted that workloads and work demands were key causes of stress.
With the level of change that is ongoing in the University all stressors as identified by the HSE are impacted:
* Demands –workload, work patterns and the work environment.
* Control – how much say the person has in the way they do their work.
* Support –encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation, line management and colleagues.
* Relationships – promoting positive working to avoid conflict and dealing with unacceptable behaviour.
* Role – whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.
* Change – how organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the organisation.
It was agreed that only an effective holistic stress prevention and management programme would address all issues.
The first stage of this programme was to undertake a complete policy review and update of the Institution’s Stress Policy. This was supported by new web pages with a “Toolkit” with relevant information about the effects of adverse pressure and stress, as well as assessment tools and support available. Assessment tools were made available to allow staff and managers to have a structured approach to identifying stressors and targeting controls.
Also, courses were developed on work-life balance and positive managerial behaviour. A wide range of University staff were involved in the consultation and development together with the University’s trade unions.
The second stage of the programme was a holistic “Be Your Best Programme”. The aim of the “Be Your Best Programme” is to provide staff with a better understanding of human behaviours and attitudes in order to encourage everyone to develop their approach to getting the best from themselves and others.
The core “Be Your Best Programme” includes a series of talks, short learning bytes, individual coaching and informal meetings – “Get Connected@Bangor”.
Talks are provided on a wide and diverse range of topics by internal experts of academic and support staff and also include a presentation by the Vice Chancellor. The short Learning Bytes addresses topics like “If only I had time”, “Achieving and effective work life Balance”, “Understanding yourself and others” and “Growing Confidence”. The “Get Connected @ Bangor” provides staff with informal networking events where staff who, as they are widely spread across the campus usually never have an opportunity to meet, can discuss common issues with colleagues in different departments face to face. A wide range of additional training courses including mindfulness and mental health first aid completed the programme.
The uptake of the programme is excellent. So far over 700 persons have attended talks, 600 attended associated training and 100 participated in the eight week mindfulness courses. In addition 80 staff have been trained as mental health first aiders to enable them to provide additional support to 12,000 students as part of very proactive Students Services team. Notably Bangor University was first in Wales, and in the Top Ten for the UK, for Student Satisfaction. These high attendance numbers give an indication of the value and usefulness to staff. Also, the willingness of academic and support staff to not only attend but also contribute demonstrated an enthusiasm for such a programme and a buy in and recognition of the importance of stress prevention and management.
The beauty and uniqueness of this intervention is that it has not cost the University any money, instead it has built on internal resources in a cost effective way. This is the first time that our own expertise has been used in a targeted way to support and train staff as well as educate students. This significantly improves the ‘Staff Experience’ which is now considered alongside the ever increasing demand to meet the ‘Student Experience’.
If you are interested in finding out more about Bangor University’s holistic stress prevention and management programme, join Lisa Fowlie at the Workplace Wellbeing & Stress Summit 2014 on the 27th November